Vegan Eats: Charlotte, NC

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Whenever I think of good southern comfort food, I’m easily reminded of Charlotte, North Carolina. And North Carolina loves to boast about its heavenly BBQ. My dad and his family live in Charlotte, so I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to try all the delectable vegan eats in this beautiful southern city. So, come on y’all. Let’s get our eat on!

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Click here to read more.

Fit for Fall: Week 3 Update

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Have you ever heard the saying, “It takes three weeks to make or break a habit?” I am on week 3 of my fitness regimen and I honestly hope that my new workout schedule becomes a permanent part of my life. I am enjoying my running routine the most. I can feel my running magically transform. I have more stamina, longer endurance, and I have finally expanded my lugs to handle the long intervals. I’m still finding the cellulite challenge to be worthwhile as a cardio routine, but I’m not so sure I’m seeing my cellulite magically disappear. But that’s fine with me. I know it takes longer than three weeks to vanish cellulite away. However, I am starting to see a change on my stomach with my abs becoming more prominent and my lower stomach flattening. So, I am very satisfied with the ab challenge if it’s shaping up my stomach in this way.

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For this week, I added something new to my fitness regimen. I signed up for ballet classes. For one hour once a week I’ll be doing ballet this fall. This is something I’ve always wanted to do since childhood, so I am very excited and really glad that I’m finally getting the chance to do it. It’s nothing too fancy though. It’s simply an adult ballet class I signed up through my local Parks and Recreation center. I highly recommend signing up for local classes like this because it’s one of the most affordable options. You can do dance classes or other activities like yoga. And with yoga $10-15 a drop-in session, you can sign up for ten weeks of yoga (once a week) for only $40, or in other words, for only $4 a session. Now, that’s a steal.

So, I’ve learned that when it comes to fitness you should always be willing to try something new. It can help your body in unexpected ways or you might fall in love with a new activity. And if you don’t like it, you can always try something else. I find that this is the most important part to a fitness regimen, because you want to discover an activity you love. That way, working out won’t be a chore, but instead a highlight of your day.

Read some more about Fit for Fall challenge below.

Fit for Fall: Week 1 Update

Fit for Fall: Week 2 Update

 

Vegan Cupcakes

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One of the hardest things about being vegan is finding replacements for your favorite food, especially treats. Don’t get me wrong, I love being vegan. But it can sometimes be tricky to find a vegan cupcake, especially one that’s affordable.

I’m pretty lucky that I live in a town that offers many vegan options, one of them being a cupcake shop called Miss Moffet’s Mystical Cupcakes that offers a daily selection of vegan cupcakes. But at $4 a cupcake, that is a little steep for such a tiny treat.

So, I’d thought I’d try finding a vegan option that I can make at home for less.

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I came across this pre-made mix at Grocery Outlet for only $2.39. Some pre-made cupcake mixes are dairy-free, all you have to do is inspect the ingredients. But, using a pre-made mix is a great way to find exact proportions of what you need without having to buy flour, backing soda in bulk. And if they are dairy-free then you don’t need to add eggs or milk to the batter either. You can use two teaspoons of vegetable oil to replace one egg. And instead of butter you can replace it with vegan butter or margarine. And instead of milk you can always use soy or almond, even water, to add into the batter.

The recipe on the back of the box recommended two eggs, four teaspoons of butter, and 2/3 cup of water to add into the batter. So, I used 4 teaspoons of vegetable oil, 4 teaspoons of vegan butter and 2/3 cup of water to mix into the batter.

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And to top it all off, I used this frosting I found at the dollar store! And yes, it is vegan.

Below is the recipe I followed to make these delicious and heavenly looking cupcakes. It cost me less than $4 to make all these cupcakes which is an amazing steal since they are normally sold at $4 per cupcake. So, if you know where to look you can easily find these cheap ingredients. If you want the same products I used but can’t find them near where you live, then try using Amazon.com or Thrivemarket.com to find these or other affordable vegan products.

So, go ahead and make these for yourself to see how tasty vegan cupcakes can be.

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Vegan Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, 4 teaspoons vegan butter (margarine), and 2/3 cup of water into bowl.
  3. Add dry ingredients (mix from box) slowly into bowl with wet ingredients. Stir until batter is smooth and free from bumps.
  4. Line muffin tin with baking cups. Pour batter into cups, but only fill halfway (gives room for cupcakes to rise without spilling out the baking cups).
  5. Put muffin tin into oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Once done, poke cupcake with a fork. If fork is free from batter, then the cupcakes are ready.
  7. Take cupcakes out of muffin tin and place on a cooling rack and let them cool down for at least an hour.
  8. After cupcakes are cooled down, put frosting on top of cupcakes and add sprinkles.

Fit for Fall: Week 2 Update

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My second week on this fitness regimen has been a little bit trickier than the first week, and that’s because I traveled to New York. But I didn’t give up. I prevailed and pushed through so that, even on vacation, I didn’t cave in and let go of my workout routine. I’m still following the same set-up as last week’s modifications. But for traveling, there were a few things I needed to do to make sure I got my workout in for the day and to stay motivated while on vacation.

Here are my five tips to stay dedicated to your fitness regimen while on vacation.

Tip 1: Prioritize your workout. Make this the first thing you want to accomplish for the day.  Meaning, make sure your workout is the first thing you do for the day. I typically hate working out in the morning. I prefer an afternoon or evening workout, but for a few days I managed doing it in the morning. It’s important for me to work out first thing in the morning because I knew if I didn’t I wouldn’t work out later because I would be too tired from sight-seeing and shopping. So, if it was done first thing in the morning, then the rest of my day was worry-free.

Tip 2: Make sure to eat a light snack before working out, especially if you are working out in the morning. This is very important because working out on an empty stomach can cause nausea, dizziness, fainting, etc. And if you are doing a morning workout like I did in New York, then you need to eat something to break your overnight fast. I had granola bars before my workouts to help power me through, which were perfect for fueling my workout.

Tip 3: Motivate yourself throughout your workout. This can come in many forms. For me, I had two forms of motivation. One, I had a workout buddy. My mom wanted to try my work out after I told her about the challenges I was doing. Having her work out with me put me into a teacher/trainer mode which made me feel confident in my skills and abilities. And two, I put together great playlists. I personally enjoy upbeat dance music to keep my energy up and it helps me push through some certain parts that are very trying.

Tip 4: Reward yourself after your workout. Most days, I rewarded myself with a wonderful vegan breakfast. Stay tuned for my Vegan Eats column coming soon where I show you my favorite vegan restaurants in the city in an epic two-parter. Back to the motivating stuff. This is a great way to get through your workout with the promise of a reward. For me, delicious vegan food is enough to motivate me. However, your reward can be anything. For example, it could be the promise of buying a nice pair of shoes or spending some time at the pool. You can customize your reward to fit into your vacation based on what you want to do while there on vacation.

Tip 5: Don’t make everyday a workout day. I give myself one day off during the week. So, I used Sunday as my free day during my first week on this workout regimen. It was just a day to relax and let my body recover. I found this one-day off system to be very motivating because after I’ve rested, I’m ready to get back to my work outs. But during my vacation, I knew the day I would need off would be Friday. That was the day I arrived in New York after taking a red-eye. So, lack of sleep and no way to check into my hotel early meant I needed a day off and save all my energy for just wandering around the city with my mom. But, just next day I was rested enough and ready to get back into my workout routine.

Those are my five tips for sticking to your fitness regimen/ workout schedule while away on vacation. I highly recommend that you try out these tips, not only for when you travel but also to try to incorporate at home. More importantly, I hope you stick with whatever works for you. I’ve tried many tips over the years and I understand that it can be hard to find a balance that’s right for you. So, take the tips that help and leave behind the ones that don’t, because that’s truly the only way you will stick to a fitness regime for life.

Vegan Eats New York: Part 1

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What would New York City be without its tall skyscrapers surrounding you, making you feel like a small child discovering a new world? This week’s post takes us to New York City where every traveler knows the buildings themselves are a must-see. So, while you make your way around the city to see these architectural wonders, I’ll show you the best vegan restaurants nearby so you can experience the best view and the best food in the city.

Click here to read more.

And stay tuned to read Part 2.

Fit for Fall: Week 1 Update

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I have now been on this new fitness regimen for one week and I can already tell how good this has been for me. I had to adjust the workout schedule to match my athletic skills, but by sticking to it I can tell how the exercises are becoming easier through repetition, my running stamina is improving, and I can already feel myself becoming stronger. And these are all things that I was hoping to achieve – and I feel like I’m accomplishing it already at week one!

At first, I was thinking of making this last a month, but I might turn this into a two-month experiment. I like this schedule and since the running challenge is for two months, I’d thought I’d expand the abs and cellulite challenge to two months as well. Right now, I feel that good and optimistic that I might’ve found a workout schedule that actually works for me. Especially since it only takes no longer than 30 minutes, which is easy enough to physically do and low maintenance enough to fit into my day.

As for the modifications I made, they are as follows:

  1. I’ve upped the 30-day ab workout to two sets instead of the original one set of each exercise. And instead of crunches, I am doing sit-ups to engage my full core instead of just engaging the upper abs. I like to start and finish my workout with the ab challenge. It’s perfect to get you loose and warmed up and it also works as a challenging cool down.
  2. I am not doing the cellulite challenge every day. On days when I’m not doing this challenge, I am running. So, I’m not skipping my legs, I’m just alternating between the challenge and running to prevent exhaustion and possibly injuring myself.
  3. And lastly, I’m giving myself a day off during the week to recover and keep myself motivated and inspired. I’m not making this day a set day, because I want to be flexible and listen to my body’s needs. For example, I wanted Sunday off so that’s what I did. But this week, I might need Friday off since I’ll be taking the red-eye to New York that day. If I’m motivated and inspired enough to not need or want a day off then that’s also great too! I just don’t want to feel guilty or punish myself in case there’s just that one day where I need a break to rest.

I can already feel and see the positive effects this new workout schedule has affected my mental health. And, I hope over time I will be able to see some physical benefits from it too. I’ll link the workouts I’m testing out below for you to try too and I hope this helps motivate you to pick up a new fitness regimen.

30 Day Abs – Does it Work?

What Every YA Author Needs to Read

These past few weeks has been quite a whirlwind since coming home from the Writer’s Digest Conference. I had the opportunity to meet and go out to a yummy dinner of meatballs (vegan meatballs, of course) with the author/speaker Gabriela Pereira. Gabriela has her own novel called DIY MFA, which really shines a light on the craft of writing as well as the business of being an author. So, it was a nice surprise to see that Gabriela had sent out her DIY MFA newsletter to us attendees that discussed an important, yet often overlooked, issue about being a writer. In this newsletter, she answers her question of the week, which is, “How many new release books should a writer read in their genre?”

I was so inspired by her answer that I thought I’d make a post of my own that combines her response, which is a simple outline that anybody can follow, with mine, which details the specific books to be on the lookout for in the YA contemporary genre. But to answer the original question, the answer is going to be different for everyone since each person has their own pacing. So, to best answer this question, Gabriela ignores the quantity you should aim for but rather focuses on the quality and types of books you should be reading. This consists of two lists – an essential list and then a customized list.

On the essential list, you need to cover your ABC’s.

A is for Anthology of Short Form Literature.

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I recommend the Norton’s Anthology of Children’s Literature for both YA and MG authors. This is a great way to get short bursts of inspiration in children’s books, middle grade and YA. I love the section that focuses on fairytale retellings in YA. It’s so fascinating and wonderfully detailed.

B is for Book of Prompts

I have yet to purchase a book of prompts, but Gabriela has great recommendations including the Now Write! series edited by Sherry Ellis. This series has specific genre-related books to help YA/MG authors too.

C is for Craft Reference

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A reference book will help you when you have questions about character development, or setting, or plot. For YA, I recommend Cheryl B. Klein’s The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults.

Now, for the customized list. This relates to what you want to write. You’ll have to follow Gabriella’s Four C’s to build up this list.

1. Competitive (Comp) Titles: These books are books that compare to your own work. It helps to know what books are already on the market that are similar to yours, since it’s useful to use comps in pitches/query letters to agents. It shows that you know the YA genre and how your book fits into it. So, for my comp title I use David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite meets Little Miss Sunshine. You only need 1-2 comps, so that’s the good thing. Just keep an eye on new books (no more than 2-3 years old) and see which book is most similar to yours.

YAReadingList42. Contextual Books: These books put your novel into context, including references and research materials. This is really important to have in mind if you are writing YA Historical Fiction, which is a booming sub-genre within YA. I currently  have these research books, for an idea I have for a MG I want to write.

3. Contemporary (Recent) Books: This reiterates the same idea with comps where you want to try to read a couple new releases in YA each year. For this though, I would try to aim for the last 18 months. That way you know who’s new in your genre as well as stay on top of trends. I really enjoyed the great depiction of mental illness and the process of recovery as a recent theme in YA in such books like Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella and The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati. But I also love the diversity and portrayal of immigrants in books like The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

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4. Classics: These aren’t just “old” books, but rather leading books that helped create and/or shape the YA genre. For me, I believe J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye to be the first YA novel and I recommend it to those trying to master the art of tone and voice.

So, I hope I was able to narrow down Gabriella’s advice to the YA genre. I love this community of YA authors and I can’t wait to see it grow and develop as a genre. And more importantly, I can’t wait to see my writing evolve within this genre as well.

30 Day Abs – Does it Work?

Last week, my husband had asked me if I wanted to join him for one of his workouts. I thought nothing of it and said sure, but it was during the workout I realized how weak I had become. The last six months have been super hectic between juggling multiple jobs and querying agents for my novel. So, I haven’t had much time to work out on a consistent basis, which is really frustrating for me. I used to have such great core strength and I used to run and have plenty of energy and endurance. But now, I know I’m nowhere near the fitness level that I feel most comfortable being at.

So, for the month of September, I will be going back on the fitness train. But, I’m not going to lie, I really had no idea where to look for solid advice on getting back on a fitness regime. So, I did what every other 20-something-year-old millennial girl does, I wandered down the rabbit hole that is Pinterest. There are a lot of fitness regimes on Pinterest that look too good to be true. They seem to be misleading in offering a quick fix solution with titles like 30 Day Abs and Eliminate Cellulite in 14 Days. It sounds good, but do they really work? If I just follow the workouts, is that enough to transform my body as advertised?

Of course, I’m curious to see if it is really as good as it sounds. So, there are three things that I am going to be putting to the test this month.

  1. I’m going to see if I can eliminate cellulite on my glutes and hamstrings. This is one I seem the least hopeful for since I know it’s very difficult to get rid of cellulite. So, instead of just doing this for two weeks, I’m going to do it for the whole month of September and see if that helps with results.
  2. I really want to improve my core strength and help with appearance of my abs. I think my upper abs are great right now, but as I did sit-ups (not crunches) with my husband I realized that I’ve lost my lower ab strength. So, I’m hoping this 30-day ab challenge will increase my core strength and hopefully show some cool results.
  3. Lastly, I want to improve my endurance as a runner. So, I’m going to follow this 8-week running schedule which will hopefully build up my endurance slowly but surely.

I won’t be drastically altering my lifestyle or diet. I eat a relatively healthy vegan diet, but I also eat plenty of carbs (bread, in particular), sugars (like Starbucks drinks and alcohol) and fatty foods (potato chips are my weakness). I want to see the impact of these workouts on my body and see what the results are purely because of these exercises. I’ll be posting weekly updates to see how I’m finding the exercises, the schedule, and the results from it. Below, you’ll find the plans I’ll be following and if you want to try it with me feel free to contact me and share your experience.

6 Exercises to Get Rid of Cellulite in 14 Days30-day-ab-challengerunnningroutine

Back To School Reading List

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School is back in session. Here in Olympia, school starts on September 6th and with that, this time of year makes me long for good books with school themes. Maybe because I was a student for so long. Or, maybe, because as a teenager, school was a sanctuary from my home life. Either way, I love how schools in YA/children’s books seem mystical, as if it is its own character in the book. Hello, Hogwarts anybody? I mean, the room of requirement proves how alive and sentient the school is as a character. So, here is a list of my favorite books that make back to school sound like an awesome adventure awaiting you.

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

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Most people hope to have an owl bring them their official Hogwarts letter inviting them to study witchcraft and wizardry. But, I had always wished to stumble upon the mirror of Erised. I was so fascinated by that as a child and I still hope to come across it someday.

2. Anna and The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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An American boarding school in the city of Paris – check. A vicarious experience of living in dorms – check. French culture and French food – check. A cute, promising romance – check. Say no more, I’m in.

3. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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In a world plagued by magically awesome heroes and world-building details seen in the likes of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, this novel focuses on characters that are usually seen in the background in these types of stories. You know, the ordinary kids – the non-heroes, who try to live ordinary teenager lives with ordinary teenage problems in a world where the biggest challenge of all is trying to attend prom when the school keeps getting blown up – again.

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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This book does a great job at detailing what it feels like to be an outcast or misfit in your school, whether that’s because you are poor or it’s because you are a shy introvert. This story about first love perfectly showcases the dynamics of how teenagers’ homes impact their school life as well their relationships with friends and boy/girlfriends.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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The story of Junior has such a special place in my heart since it parallels to my Native American grandfather’s up bringing about an Indian basketball player leaving the reservation to play for the all-white farm town high school. With a great narrative, fresh humor, and awesome cartoons, this book is bound to find a special place in your heart too.